Aquascaping Tips And Tricks - Page 2

Silister Trench

Why Do We Recommend a 'Siesta'?

First off, I don't under normal circumstances - which will get to later. Second, I think siesta was maybe a cute term to label this practice ump-teen years ago, yet the cuteness does little to describe what it's for, who it's for, and why it's an option? Wouldn't just calling it a "Dark period of Co2 accumulation" or even better "A photosynthetic break, in which lights are shut off to allow respiratory Co2 levels (or other natural means of Co2) to accumulate to a higher level before continuing photosynthesis" been sufficient. Okay, it's not as catchy or as cute, but if any of you have ever mentioned a siesta to a beginner 9/10 times you had to explain something like that anyways, which means the six letters you lazily wrote and their cuteness failed to impart any wisdom and you had to type it out anyways -

Planted Tank 'siesta': An intermit in plant photosynthesis sometime after Co2 levels fall to unfavorable levels created by shutting off available lighting completely to a planted low-tech fish tank in order to allow levels of Co2 to accumulate to a higher level than had previously been available at the end of the first period of photosynthesis. Co2 accumulation in this case is from the respiration of tank inhabitants, respiration of bacteria, natural decay (dirt tanks), but can only be achieved by reducing surface agitation to a very minimal disturbance.

When we 'Siesta' Wrong...

Low-Light/Low-Tech 'siesta': Once agin, this practice is traced back to Diana Walstad and her book "Ecology of the Planted Tank" as far as I can tell, but this over-practice and the likelihood that it is in fact providing you with a better source of Co2 throughout the entire photoperiod can hardly be blamed on her. In some cases such as a Walstad Tank it is an advisable practice that helps fast-growing stem plants have the necessary levels of Co2 to continue photosynthetic production that creates this natural ecosystem, however, the majority of people who practice or recommend this siesta have -

A.) Understood this practice entirely and their tank and plant selection reflect accurately why it is necessary
B.) Never tried a Walstad Tank and assume it's a good practice for low-light tanks
C.) Never read the book, never questioned the siesta's origins

I assume we all live in a world where red means STOP/Incorrect and green means GO/correct... right? A world where on multiple choice tests our brains - whenever in doubt of the true answer - resorted to an unknown formula that claims C.) is likely the correct answer and if that wasn't right B.) had the next highest chance of being right whereas A.) had the lowest chance. Well, that high-school level of experienced guesswork is what my brain falls back on whenever I see someone recommend a siesta to someone else and than either flies away, or they do it because that's the hours in which they are most able to view the tank... LIAR! You practice it because someone else told you the same thing and then they flew away from the thread because (be honest with me) who sits and views a tank for 4 hours, then leaves for 4 hours every day, then comes back to look at the tank for 4 hours. Alright, maybe not ALL of you because some of us have weird schedules and our availability isn't the same - some of us really like to look at the tanks we care for and want to see them whenever we can. It's relaxing, lovely, entertaining, foreign, unfinished, a world our own... the rest of you are still lying... I don't need to know whether you're truthful or not because I have another simple test. Say "yes" to the ones that apply, and please don't say it out loud if you're in a public area because hearing the person next to you in the coffee shop mumble to themselves is awkward and weird - at least that's what the couple at the table to my right told me.

  1. My plants consist of slow-growing beginner plants such as Java Ferns, Anubias, Moss only; or very few stem plants with low-light
  2. My lights are effectively low-lighting in terms of PAR... >30 and plant growth is usually very slow even on plants deemed 'FAST'.
  3. I have a Hang on Back filter, internal canister filter, air stones or anything else that causes disturbance across the surface of water.
  4. I dose one form of liquid carbon or another - most commonly Flourish Excel
  5. I have a Co2 Injected tank
  6. My tank is stocked very low, or no fish at all
If you answered yes to any of 1-6 I'm in an awkward position to say you're wasting your time and you are confused and oh-so wrong if for one second you thought this was helping Co2 in your tank. Now that I think about it, that wasn't awkward... I feel pretty good about finally getting that off my chest.

The halt in photosynthesis is to allow respiration from fish and like freshwater creatures, as well as bacteria, to have a chance to breathe and I mean that quite literally. With each breath they exhale that all natural Co2 plants are eager and happy to recycle for us back into that oh-so-sweet and delicious O2 we gasp for when there's not enough in a room, and we unknowingly imprison in our lungs whenever an attractive member of the opposite gender smiles in our direction. This means that any of 4-5 means a siesta in which Co2 is allowed to accumulate is not needed in the slightest since an alternate method is provided, and while 6 may be practical as an idea a tank with very low stocking will likely not generate a significant amount of Co2 that could not be provided sufficiently by our atmosphere. If you answered yes to 1 then you are a elitist if you are a beginner and selected plants that have a low demand for Co2 under low light and won't require this break - good on you! - and if you answered yes to 2 you're lighting isn't intense enough to create a high enough demand for Co2 for it to even matter unless planted in such a way you have an over abundance of fast-growing Co2 hungry stem plants. 3 means you don't understand or care that carbon dioxide exists as a trace gas in Earth's atmosphere at the very low concentration of 0.04% and that if Co2 levels in water are higher than that present in the atmosphere that this surface agitation causes the higher concentration of Co2 in the water to "gas off" through atmospheric equilibrium, loosely meaning that you can't have a higher concentration of Co2 in water that is exchanging gasses than the downward force our o.o4% atmospheric Co2 without the tank trying to exhale that extra Co2 back upward to the atmosphere.

When is a Siesta a good thing or unneeded?

Variables are variable from one tank to another, but generally a siesta period can provide essential Co2 under circumstances. Co2 is no more allergic to water than oxygen is but because it's constantly attempting to reach natural equilibrium and that level is extremely low we can conclude that surface agitation increases the speed at which this happens. In tanks that have a dirt substrate natural decomposition provides a source of Co2 in small amounts. This source of decomposition is actually provided by the pieces of decaying wood commonly found in them if I'm not mistaken. This Co2 along with respired Co2 from stocking and bacteria can potentially create a higher concentration of Co2 than our atmosphere will introduce through equilibrium, so surface agitation in dirt tanks is likely non-beneficial because Co2 levels can reach a much higher concentration without, allowing for faster growth or more Co2 demanding plants in which a siesta is beneficial to heighten levels of Co2.

In cases where something in your tank is depleting these levels of Co2 to a point it bottoms out, then a siesta can be used as a break.

In a lot of cases when plant growth is low, or plants are undemanding in Co2 (even if planted heavily) it's generally not needed, nor recommended.

I never recommend a siesta because I never want to tell someone to plant a low-light tank in which the Co2 demand would outweigh what can be achieved by respiration and surface agitation without breaking the photoperiod, and we do want the surface water agitated to break the protein films and for relative beauty. Choosing the plants that are undemanding means your final aquascape will take much longer to become lush and beautiful, but the problems some have because they've created due to Co2 demand vs natural means is outweighed, either forcing them to Siesta, or likely inevitably break down and liquid dose carbon. Most often I never try to provide a reason behind a problem that creates continuing cost for any of us because fish-keeping is expensive and I think excel and breaks in the tank's light should only be used if you are trying to enhance your aquascape, and not sustain it with the additional Co2 even if the means are natural.

Told you in the first paragraph that I'd get to why I don't recommend a siesta and I remembered. - Sil
 

DanioDanny

Thank you for that incredibly detailed description of your thoughts. I tried my best to take it all in, essentially my question to you is (and I may have missed it), - if not a siesta photoperiod, then what would you recommend? 14 hours of full light?
 

Silister Trench

Thank you for that incredibly detailed description of your thoughts. I tried my best to take it all in, essentially my question to you is (and I may have missed it), - if not a siesta photoperiod, then what would you recommend? 14 hours of full light?

It's a lot to take in, and not an easy concept to grasp.

14 hrs is too long. It's written throughout forums an 8 - 12 hr photoperiod is ideal, but this time period is incredibly outdated as more efficient lighting became available.

I use LEDs on primarily everything and whether I run Co2 or not I've never had much success running a photoperiod longer than 8 hrs. I've used other forms of lighting and 8 hrs is always the very longest I can run a light without algae forming or diatoms developing.

My most algae-free and healthiest tanks are ALWAYS low-light tanks that run a cheap glass lily pipe instead of a spray bar. Now, the lily pipe isn't worth noting, but how it's designed is that water runs into a cup-shape and it follows the glass in a curve upwards to the surface in a spiral that creates a lot of surface agitation that introduces oxygen and Co2 in our air into the water one tank is heavily planted, but because of the low level of light the stocking and bacterial respiration and good surface agitation keep this tank very clean 90% of the time, save for diatoms in the glass.
 

Jocelyn Adelman

Three questions
First off I will say I don't use a siesta. however, a lot of the time I see it recommended is when people are dealing with algae issues, not as much for co2 replenishment (even though this is where it came from). Beyond that their tanks are out of whack with lighting/ferts/co2/plant/fish balance, assuming they weren't fixing the issue and the siesta helped, would you be recommending for those cases?

Secondly... what lighting do you use on your low light tanks?
Third... lily pipes. Been hearing a lot about them lately... unfortunately I either have sunsun canisters which the tubing is to big and aquaclear hobs (all sizes from 20-110). Any chance you've seen a way to use the lily pies in these instances? My interest mostly came from disliking input/outputs and the desire to have them "disappear". The more I look into the pipes, their benefits seem great, more then a simple "appearance" fix.
 

Silister Trench

Three questions
First off I will say I don't use a siesta. however, a lot of the time I see it recommended is when people are dealing with algae issues, not as much for co2 replenishment (even though this is where it came from).

Typically, the owner is the problem - fixing their bad habits fixes all the problems. Their are two types of aquascapers and planted tank owners. The first are the balanced few of you that are patient, tank their time, attempt to absorb as much advice and knowledge they can. When they run into problems they are eager to identify and correct the issue. These are very safe owners, and they are hands down better than the category I fall into. The second type of us run in guns blazing, pushing everything to limits we aren't aware and have little hope to identify in time. We over-light, we overdose, we over-stock... we're just so far over and under nearly every limited boundary that the safe owner doesn't force themselves to cross that when we first succeed it's usually by pure accident. The brighter we burn, the faster we burnout and when we fail we do so much more extreme then the safe owner.

Beyond that their tanks are out of whack with lighting/ferts/co2/plant/fish balance, assuming they weren't fixing the issue and the siesta helped, would you be recommending for those cases?

I think you hammered that nail so hard right on the head with this first part. Everything is usually so out of whack to begin with that it's commonly hard to find a conclusion that makes sense. What we know is that Co2 is a much harder nutrient to detect than Micro/Macro nutrients without professional grade equipment. We never notice it when it's present at good levels, but we definitely notice it when it's not present and all H-E-double hockey sticks breaks loose with algae, yet... that's only a effect and not the cause. Co2 deficiency is not a cause either, but an effect of an overabundance of light usually from any of the following:

  1. Interrupted breaks in the dark period. I've done this no-no to myself more times than I can count. The easiest time to fix a tank is when everyone else in the household is asleep, which usually means the tank light has been off and everything is in sleep mode. I flip on my tank light and want to spend only 30 minutes - 1 hr tweaking the tank. That turns into 3 hrs later, the tank light has been on the whole time, the plants are photosynthesizing and the typical 6-8hrs the light should have been on that day became 9-11hrs. Sometimes it's longer. I know now I have just created a problem I will see sometime next week in the form of algae, but new tank owners rarely realize this in itself upset a balance the tank had adjusted to. Insanity pursues...
  2. Following the well-noted 8-12 hrs you should be giving light to your tank and maximizing that 12th hour. Very few people will actually claim anything over 8hrs is good for much anything but algae that have tried longer photoperiods. None of my low or high light tanks run more than 7hrs (just checked) with high-light Co2 tanks being 5-6 hrs in a 24hr period.
  3. Maximizing light output to maximize the growth without understanding the increase in photosynthesis increases a much higher demand of Co2 and other nutrients, or to put it plainly using a light much too strong.
While there may be more causes, these came to mind for noob mistakes. In correcting one, or sometimes all three of these causes, for an overabundance of light the algae the siesta fixed would likely cease to form. What I would recommend to people that had a problem that went away with a siesta suggestion is a rule I've had to hammer into my brain: Don't fix what isn't broken and don't dwell in one place too long. Unless, that is, they want to get rid of the siesta break then trying any or all of these three no-no can correct it either by using a timer and leaving the lights off once they shut of no matter what or by reducing the intensity of their light by raising it.

This only applies to tanks not following the Walstad Method in their true form. Diana's Walstad Tank is a method she developed and the siesta should be applied under her directions. The reason why is she recommends strong circulation and minimal surface agitation to retain natural Co2 for photoperiods of around 12 hrs in her tanks.

Tom Barr, equally if not more impressive, recommends surface agitation and strong circulation on his low-light tanks which are not designed the way Diana designed her Walstad Tank, except the tank he did design to competitively do the same thing as her natural ecosystem using Flourish Excel to solve the #1 flaw of a Walstad Tank which inevitably becomes Co2 deficiency farther down the road.



Secondly... what lighting do you use on your low light tanks?
Third... lily pipes. Been hearing a lot about them lately... unfortunately I either have sunsun canisters which the tubing is to big and aquaclear hobs (all sizes from 20-110). Any chance you've seen a way to use the lily pies in these instances? My interest mostly came from disliking input/outputs and the desire to have them "disappear". The more I look into the pipes, their benefits seem great, more then a simple "appearance" fix.

They do have larger pipes to fit the sunsun canister's humongous tubing, but you pay more for it. On my sunsun 602b the nano glass pipes fit this standard 1/2 inch filter hose ($10 or so from california or china) while the bigger hose I believe is 5/8ths inch and requires a 17mm glass lily pipe at least on my 303B. They aren't much more expensive, but they certainly won't be $10. Here you can look at the different sizes, but note that these are just the intakes and not a set with both intake/outflow. I would just double check your hose size in a seller's description before purchase the size you want.



If you look back a page or two in this thread I wrote about the different styles of glass pipes and their uses.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and as far as light I prefer using a Chihiros A-series light in most tanks (High or low light) because of the dimming function and the 9,000k light looks amazing with green plants. Never thought I'd like a spectrum outside of 6,500 - 7,000 but they're just awesome and very affordable lights for tanks 24" long or less. These lights are ran less than half strength for low-light tanks.

My second choice are Finnex Stingrays for longer tanks. I don't like this light for any other reason than affordability vs Finnex planted+ 24/7 and its dimming function. The price is better, but they're kind of meh...

Dimming function to me is a strong selling point.
 

Silister Trench

The most versatile Aquascaping Plants -

Mosses... yeah, hands down mosses are some of the most versatile plants to use in a Aquascaping. I'll drop an example of mine below, but by all means if anyone out there has a better picture of what mosses are capable of I'd gladly rather have that picture showcased because this was really my very first time going crazy with moss.


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Mosses are great for planted tanks, but for Aquaecapes they are so intricately designed, so versatile that whenever mosses aren't showcased in Aquascapes there can be a sense of artificial replication, meaning that it looks exactly what it shouldn't look like and that is a hardscape you or I set down and planted. Mosses give rocks and driftwood a look of aged consent, as if the hardscape has been there much longer than 90-180 days.

Mosses are also intricate when viewed up close and blend to form cohesion and a sense of depth from farther away. On top of that there is literally a moss for every scenario. In my example picture I used moss as both ground cover and to fill in the upper portions of trees. The majority of the tree work is done in either Christmas Moss or Weeping Moss, but right under that I have done an equal amount of work creating the foreground by securing Java Moss, Flame Moss and Weeping Moss to rocks at the front. This mixed variety and time-consuming labor of securing all those mosses adds a variety more often seen in true nature than a fish tank. Now the above tank is still in progress, so everything isn't just right yet, but I know I would have never been able to get such a unique foreground had I used any other type of plant.

Some great mosses are -

Java Moss
Christmas Moss
Weeping Moss
Pheonix Moss
Flame Moss
Coral Moss
 

slybry

Co2 does have an impact on pH, as it introduces carbonic acid to the water causing an increase in hydrogen ion presence and a decrease in pH. You can introduce Co2 to a cup of water by blowing air through a straw. The Co2 we respirate is easily detectable in this experiment. What effects these have depends on our tank.
<snip>
Let me know if I missed something


Yes this answers my question well! thanks! I think where I'm still getting stuck is the following.

Assume I have a high tech setup. Lights, C02. The whole shebang. I have a balanced system. We'll just say for an example I sitting pretty with 3KH, 6.8 PH and 14 ppm CO2. To reach that sweet spot do you add enough CO2 for the excess to =14 PPM? If my CO2 runs out does my PH jump to over 8 because my plants with high lighting have sucked up the reserves?
 

Silister Trench

Yes this answers my question well! thanks! I think where I'm still getting stuck is the following.

Assume I have a high tech setup. Lights, C02. The whole shebang. I have a balanced system. We'll just say for an example I sitting pretty with 3KH, 6.8 PH and 14 ppm CO2. To reach that sweet spot do you add enough CO2 for the excess to =14 PPM? If my CO2 runs out does my PH jump to over 8 because my plants with high lighting have sucked up the reserves?

Can't say I've ever really thought about it, so I've never tested pH to see the jump and determine how fast it happens. I've had tanks run out of Co2 during the photoperiod and within a few hours the color in a drop checker will change from yellow (30ppm Co2 I believe?) to green, then to blue - meaning the pH has altered.
Since you're artificially altering the pH of tank water when Co2 injecting the pH will definitely return to it's normal state if you run out, but it's not instantaneous. It's gradual. As the plants consume the extra Co2 the carbonic acids will dissipate.

And to reach that sweet spot really depends on your tank setup. One tank I own is Co2 injected 24/7 at a rate that keeps Co2 constant at 30ppm. I'm actually injecting less on this tank than I do on others because I'm allowing it to build up during the times when the light is off, so it's likely less than another tank of mine to keep it at that level. Another tank uses a solenoid to control off/on. This Co2 kicks on hours before the lights come on and shuts off before the lights turn off. In this case I'm injecting more than the other tank to increase the pressence of Co2. Lights come on and Co2 is at 30ppm, and it stays that way in order to reach that level within 2 hrs and maintain that level for 7 hrs before shutting down.
 

Silister Trench

A Perception of Aquascaping and Natural Hardscapes

I'm not going into what not to add and what you should look out for when gathering your own hardscape, as I've already covered that a few pages back, so if you have questions please do a little searching in this thread for other posts where I wrote about hardscape.

I live in Minnesota, and last spring was the first time I looked for Hardscape, and it was a challenge at first. In Minnesota we have an abundant amount of lakes, rivers and dried beds. According to the geological history I remember from my teacher, Mr. Ratz in 6th grade, a few million years ago Minnesota was completely covered in glacial ice that moved and retreated across this part of the U.S., leaving us with flawed, flattened land with over 10,000 lakes (trust me, they're counting small, fishless ponds...) and a stone scape that's comprised primarily of sand stones, slates, iron ore deposits and granite. While there is also a variety of stones and compositions of color our vast watery resources makes most of these stones smooth and round.

History lesson aside, when I went out looking for Hardscape in my own back yard I didn't find what I was looking for - it's rare for many of us to. What I was looking for was Seiryu Stone, Dragon Stone, etc... Rocks we often see displayed in professional tanks, or even more famously in Amano's tanks. Okay, I wasn't looking for these stones exactly but I was looking for stones with just as much character as these stones have, and I didn't find anything. For the longest time I thought my only means of getting stones was eBay sellers at dashingly steep prices. What I failed to realize was that TakashI Amano used Seriyu in IwagumI because in Japan this stone is naturally found there, and he was literally recreating the scenery around him through aquascaping. When he wanted to recreate an amazon jungle, he used plants and wood found in the amazon, so it dawned on me... When you use Seiryu Stone, but have never actually seen a formation of it naturally, you aren't recreating nature - you're actually imitating someone else's recreation of nature.

I set this in my mind the next time I went out and stopped looking for stones that weren't natural to me. I started looking at logs, grasses, natural stone formations and riverbeds with fallen trees. What I discovered was that I had natural hardscape all around me. This wasn't stones or woods that I could use to imitate an IwagumI or nature aquascape I'd seen online. This was quite literally an invitation from nature to recreate portions of it that maybe even the most experienced aquascapers hadn't seen because they didn't live where I did. I started gathering every stone I thought looked good, gathered woods that were found around these stones and I began to piece out my own aquascapes not in an attempt to recreate imitation, but one unique to me.

What I discovered was that all the smooth riverstones made an ideal riverbed, or if I smashed them with a hammer they became something else instead; a stone fragment that became much more diverse. All the wood I gathered and all the wood I've bought online looked similar beneath the water, and all it cost me was time and a little scrounging in the forest, around lakes, rivers, and although my neighbors and mother probably wouldn't appreciate I sometimes took a gander in rock beds. Sure, I asked if I saw a stone, but I was always looking from then on.

So the best hardscape is what's most natural to you. You know how to lay it, how to plant it, because it's right outside your window. TakashI Amano never wanted 10,000 fish keepers to imitate his work, although the idea probably didn't hurt his mindset. What that dude wanted was to recreate nature so you could see what he saw.

Just thought this was a good note. Not so much a tip or trick, but Einstein once said anyone could be a genius so long as they could change the way they thought about things. The same applies to aquascaping. Anyone can do it, so long as you stop trying to imitate someone else's imitation and change what you wish to design to what you know - what you see and feel all around you every day, every hour, every minute, second...

-Sil
 

Silister Trench

Part 1 of 3

Intermediate Level VS Cheap Tool Sets

The first set of tools are an intermediate level set in both cost & design. While one could argue this is a tad higher than most hobbyists budget and some of the tools become very specialized the whole set cost less than $70 w/ algae scraper + substrate rake. There are far more expensive sets, so instead of labeling this as an Intermediate set let's just call it a -

- Quality Set -

Scissors
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Top: curved wavy (foreground scissors)


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Middle: straight scissors


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Bottom: 6" (160 mm) spring scissors


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Narrow/Fine-tipped pincet (tweezers) + scissors


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Top: Angled Pincet


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Bottom: Straight Pincet


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Hanger Mount


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(Cheap set will be added next)
 

Silister Trench

- Continued)

Cheap Set


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Quality Angled Pincet (bottom) cheap


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Quality straight scissors (bottom)vs cheap


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Quality


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Cheap


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There's not really a cheap curved wavy scissors or spring scissor so this next photo shows a quality curved wavy vs other


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Cheap hanger mount


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Silister Trench

- continued)

Algae scraper


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Cheap gravel rake
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Tanks and Plants

What brand of algae scraper is that? I have been looking for one just like that.

Thanks!
 

Silister Trench

What brand of algae scraper is that? I have been looking for one just like that.

Thanks!
I think it's the 26 inch model of Moss



The one I have is unbranded on the actual algae scraper, unlike some of my other tools, so I'm not positive anymore. You can find cheaper 3-piece 26" models for around $10. on eBay. There's not much difference buying this one or a cheaper version - the only real difference being strength of steel. Watch out for the China models that have an untextured top handle or are 1 piece.
 

Tanks and Plants

I think it's the 26 inch model of Moss



The one I have is unbranded on the actual algae scraper, unlike some of my other tools, so I'm not positive anymore. You can find cheaper 3-piece 26" models for around $10. on eBay. There's not much difference buying this one or a cheaper version - the only real difference being strength of steel. Watch out for the China models that have an untextured top handle or are 1 piece.

Thanks for the link! The one I have has a head that cannot fit regular razors. I have looked high and low for a razor that will fit the head of my algae scraper. When I first got it, it came with this dull piece of metal that wouldn't scrape algae from glass. It would kinda like smear it.
And because the middle part doesn't have a screw the middle is where I have the most problems.

This is how the one I have looks like......


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Thanks for the link and THANKS for the awesome Thread!
 

DanioDanny

A Perception of Aquascaping and Natural Hardscapes

Just thought this was a good note. Not so much a tip or trick, but Einstein once said anyone could be a genius so long as they could change the way they thought about things. The same applies to aquascaping. Anyone can do it, so long as you stop trying to imitate someone else's imitation and change what you wish to design to what you know - what you see and feel all around you every day, every hour, every minute, second...

-Sil

This is wonderful
 

Silister Trench

Thanks for the link! The one I have has a head that cannot fit regular razors. I have looked high and low for a razor that will fit the head of my algae scraper. When I first got it, it came with this dull piece of metal that wouldn't scrape algae from glass. It would kinda like smear it.
And because the middle part doesn't have a screw the middle is where I have the most problems.

This is how the one I have looks like......


image.jpg

Thanks for the link and THANKS for the awesome Thread!

Wow! That is a completely weird design to something that should be simple. Yeah, you can fit smaller razor blades in the one I have.
 

Silister Trench

This is wonderful

Thank you!

That was really a spur of the moment write for no particular reason other than boredom while looking through aquascaping contest winning entries, trying to find the name of a certain plant. Some of the top ten are solid designs, awesome work, but kind of the same - a serious trend of it's good but we've seen it done every year since the contest began. There was a pattern to some years (some not) where the actual 1st place winner provided pictures of their tank which often boggled the mind and made you wonder what/where/why? and there it was. Realization that my mind needed to ask those questions because I'd never seen something like it. With how detailed and well-executed the tanks were, you could tell the person who aquascaped it they weren't imitating a set style or technique. They were actually taking a scene they'd seen once, or twice, or maybe every day for their entire life, and relating that portrayal to their aquascape.

Two stood out. One was a very detailed forest with dead trees in places and large mounds of sand that I recognized were large anthills after looking at it for a while. The next was a completely moss covered, twisted jungle of woods that not only made you study the layout, but then ask: just how in the heck? not because of unique design (although it was) or rare plant selection because it was only moss, but because somehow, in some way, and for some reason the aquascaper looked as if he'd managed to slightly kill the moss in portions purposefully and it made it look real. I spent the next 10 minutes trying to guess as to how, or in what way, he achieved said look of decayed undergrowth but after pretty confidently coming up with an idea as to how I would imitate such a look, I still felt safe to say that even if I figured out the method I was still probably wrong, and it didn't do me any good because I'd never know what inspired it.

An imitation of an aquascape even at it's best is still an imitation - of an imitation - of nature's tapestry and with each generation of imitation - even the 1st one - a large portion of what nature did to make it so captivating in the first place is forever lost. It degrades in such a way as tracing paper might after one person traces an of a mountain range or a forest, then passes it down a line without the original where the next person quickly erases the lines and then attempts to draw it from the lines etched into the paper from the first person and their own memory, then passes it down for someone else to erase and try a similar trace, then another, then again, again...

Guess that's a follow-up to the post you quoted. The idea has been burned somewhere in my head, but I haven't followed it anywhere yet worth recreating.
 

DanioDanny

It's interesting you mentioned it when you did - I had just been paying attention to a particular scape out the back of my house that I wanted to recreate in my cube tank. Without wanting to hijack this thread - I have some pictures that might help illustrate your point/offer me advice

So this is the scene, I walk through it everyday. To work.


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And back again.


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In order to recreate it I think there are 2 main tree types. The tall, thin trees and the smaller branched trees.


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There are a few plant types, the spiny nettles and the elongated leafy bush next to it in the middle.


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And this darker, rounder leafed bush along the edges.


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It's not completely densely grown, but mainly, but for some bare patches and a path where people clearly walk.


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Any suggestions on plant types? I was thinking about recreating a 'winter' look, essentially meaning I can forget the leaves on the tall trees making my life easier.

It actually reminds me somewhat of your other tank - the forest one, but with less moss.

What do you think?
 

Silister Trench

It's interesting you mentioned it when you did - I had just been paying attention to a particular scape out the back of my house that I wanted to recreate in my cube tank. Without wanting to hijack this thread - I have some pictures that might help illustrate your point/offer me advice

So this is the scene, I walk through it everyday. To work.


809e692eb3d67464af2035a7b4481182.jpg

And back again.


fa395240f40ba4678dc9530586609bc5.jpg

In order to recreate it I think there are 2 main tree types. The tall, thin trees and the smaller branched trees.


21defcb272ce215ce009bb115b9243f7.jpg

There are a few plant types, the spiny nettles and the elongated leafy bush next to it in the middle.


3f02b7474e04fa046d4a0b1890177b47.jpg

And this darker, rounder leafed bush along the edges.


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It's not completely densely grown, but mainly, but for some bare patches and a path where people clearly walk.


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Any suggestions on plant types? I was thinking about recreating a 'winter' look, essentially meaning I can forget the leaves on the tall trees making my life easier.

It actually reminds me somewhat of your other tank - the forest one, but with less moss.

What do you think?

It's totally doable! The last picture is by far my favorite, but the problem is going to come to your tank size. In a nano tank no plants - aside from moss - is going to scale correctly to a whole scene like that. You'd never get the detail and variety that makes the picture natural looking. This would work well in a tank 25-30 gallons, but in my 5 or 7.2 gallon tank there's no way.

The best way to go about it would be to focus on a single main tree nearer the front and a secondary tree on the other side towards the corner. The pieces of wood would have to be tree-like and detailed themselves so if you snapped a photo of it the trees would look as if any foliage they did have was above the tank. That way you're tricking the viewer into thinking outside the tank. Then focus heavily on plants and detail at the base of the tank and make that more interesting than what might be above, so the viewer doesn't care.

The planting becomes the problem, and I'm going to assume we're talking low-tech which cuts variety (which is really key into recreating something natural) and makes it harder. The thick foliage in the pictures is best recreated with mosses. Even though there aren't in visible rocks in that last picture, you'd build the bottom as if there were and attach a combination of weeping moss closer to the front glass, christmas moss towards the middle, and flame moss towards the back.

To provide intricacy I'd plant Marsilea Minuta between the rocks near the second tree, and scarcely in front of the first, then use Anubias Nana var. 'Petite at the base of the nearest tree with Pogostemon Helferi planted slightly behind it. If you can find small Bucephalandra these would also go a long ways to place into it here and there.

As far as a background - not really going for a winter look - I'd use Cabomba because of it's intricate foliage and then stick thin, small twigs through the substrate among it to imitate branches or other trees farther away.

Edit: Let me expand on some of the plants I listed because they aren't atypical of low tech. I don't think of a tank in terms of using blasting sand and root tabs. Using a quality planted tank substrate where you needed plants like Pogostemon HelferI and Cabomba to root, or any other rooting plants would be essential - as well as balancing strong enough lighting without overdoing it. Aside from the Cabomba the plants are slow growing, which means the tank would take a long time to reach a mature state. Those plants came to mind because no one plant should be outperforming the rest, so plants like Pogostemon HelferI and Cabomba should work under low-light instances like this; the pogostemon placed more directly beneath the light and the Cabomba towards the back on the edge of the light where it's weaker in terms of PAR. I can see how I'd try to balance it, but there's no guarantee.
 

DanioDanny

Firstly - thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed response!

I have a 12 gallon tank, which could be a bit of a squeeze, but even for the future it's something I'd love to do

I love using moss, I have some flame moss and weeping moss just casually on my driftwood in my 40 gallon, so that definitely appeals.

It's interesting that you chose a particular picture to focus on, rather than the whole! Probably very sensible in hindsight, as we only have some much room!

I like the idea of having a slow growing tank, somewhat more 'natural' - like a forest - despite the fact I realise it would be easier to imitate nature if it was high tech
 

Silister Trench

Aquarium Tools - Quality vs Cheap photos: Part 1 of 3 - Page 4 Post # 75 + 76 + 77

Aquascaping Tips And Tricks

Aquarium Tools - Usage: Part 2 of 3

This is a rewrite on a description I made earlier of some of the tools and their purpose in the tank and how I utilize them. I wanted to skip doing this again, but some uses of the tools can be fundamental to the 3rd part of this, which is going to be a descriptive portion of some of the techniques in a tank.

Curved Pincet/Straight Pincet: There are tons more tweezers sold for the planted tank than these two - some some shaped similar to an S while another has a design that looks similar to{ __/---- } but no matter their length or overall design there are simply two types of aquarium tweezers; one will have wider points, while the the other has very narrow points.
  • Wider Tweezers: Often if you're buying cheaper tools this is the style you've bought. The wider closing tips are great for moving smaller objects (small stones, pieces of driftwood, etc...), but where these wide ends make grabbing onto some objects very easy what they actually make more difficult is planting into the substrate. The problem is the wide ends are usually larger than the base of the plant you're trying to push into the substrate, so it makes a protective pocket around the stem, so when you insert and then release, the buoyancy of the plant is prone to jetting upwards from the substrate before it has a chance to fill in the pocket left by the ends. It's still very doable, but it's also very bothersome trying to plant the same stem 3+ times.
  • Narrow Tweezers: These are opposite of the wider ends. Planting into the substrate is incredibly easy compared to a wider tweezers, but where these are much better for finer planting they are much less usable in terms of shuffling hardscape in a tank - nor would you want to with these. Strictly use these for planting, and buy a cheap wider tweezers for any time you want to grab a small stone without getting your whole arm wet.
Scissors: Just like tweezers, there are many different variations of scissors, but we primarily see three basic styles. Each style is designed to make trimming easier for a specific task. While you could definitely trim a carpet of Hemianthus callitrichoides (Dwarf baby tears/cuba) if you used a straight scissor you would literally have to insert your whole arm, lay the scissor with the blade angled downward but mostly horizontal across the bottom and trim it that way. I've never tried it this way, but I can't imagine I'd do it again anytime thereafter and I wouldn't have a straight line. Our 3 most used scissors + 1 lesser seen:
  • Curved Wavy Scissor: This has a very irregular design that's similar to this shape on your keyboard { ~ } except slightly more straightened. This design solves the exact scenario I described above using a straight scissor while trying to make a horizontal cut. This design allows you to trim carpet plants horizontal and uniformed, but the unique design tends to make trying to try other plants in the tank more difficult, as the blade opens and closes slower.
  • Curved Scissors: Incredibly simple but practical variation of a straight scissors. By curving the blade this style also solves the scenario above and lats you cut large groupings of plants with quick snips that let you keep your arms and position at about 45 degrees. This is probably the most useful scissors out there, and anything I've done with the other scissors I've done with this one alone just the same. I love this scissor for hacking backgrounds plants down, or pruning moss overgrowth. It's my hack and slash go-to.
  • Straight Scissors: Why is it that the scissors we've primarily used our entire life is the least I've used when trimming inside a glass box? It's easy to imagine, actually. It's because to cut a straight line you have to hold a scissor with a straight blade - you guessed it! - straight... This generally makes it a good plant for light pruning and some trimming, but almost anything that can be done by this style is made easier by the two above.
  • Spring Scissors: As I pictured in Part 1, there's this little 6 or 6.5" scissors that I have called a spring scissors. I upgraded my tools just shortly after almost 1 year and 6 months of never finding a practical use for the simple straight scissors I had, and almost as soon as I did (trimming vertical growing mosses - Part 3) this dainty snips arrived and aside from a handful of special occasions my straight scissor is collecting dust again. For nano tanks to pruning I love this scissors and would like to see a curved spring scissors 10" long. What does it do? It's designed in a way that places the end of the handle in such a way as when you close the blade these thin pieces of metal compress and the tension they create opens the scissor by use of that force. Essentially self-opening scissors with a small, thin blade (slightly curved on my style) that makes pruning a thick bush of java fern much easier. A 10" scissor no mater the style lacks a certain precision if you're very delicately trying to prune a single bad leaf. Usually when you finally line the blade around the base of the leaf and clip it a lot of times there's a feeling of dismay as you see other portions of leaf or plant you hadn't meant to clip go floating away. These little scissors are awesome for nano tanks, and their self-opening design makes trimming easy.
Substrate Rake: I can't remember exactly what I used to push substrate around before this, but I'd guess I used my hand a lot of the time. That's just fine when it's a new tank, but the thought of pushing the substrate during a remodel of an old one tickles my gag reflex when I think of my fingers sunk deep into uneaten food, fish waste, detritus worms, and whatever else lurked beneath the surface...

99 out of 100 days my substrate rake collects dust with my straight scissors, but when it comes to fixing cosmetic sand, or starting a new tank hardscape it's the only tool I want. It does exactly what it's name describes, and that's moving the substrate. While this isn't a necessary tool, you can pretty much find this on eBay for $2 and it's worth it even if it just hangs there for the next 3-6 months.
 

Silister Trench

Part 3 of 3 ~ A Touch of Technique

I never wanted to list out intended uses for the tools in part 2. In fact, I didn't want part 2. I simply wanted comparison shots of different tools - one set versus the other - and then maybe some shots of the tools as I've used them. First, you can only upload 10 s to a post which is why I had to break Part 1 up into different posts. Secondly, none of my tanks are placed in any such way that it's easy to take a picture or even video while I'm working on it. Finally, the more I thought about it the less "Intended Use" even makes sense. I mean, I broke some cheap tweezers trying to pick up a huge rock months ago. In Part 1 that green thread wrapped around the cheap tweezer isn't for looks. It's actually holding the weld together with silicone to prevent the weld from breaking. Then I bent my cheap aquarium rake into a "C"- like shape trying to chip off a thin piece of stone from a rock. When it comes down to it, the intended use for any of the tools is to make things (whatever it is you're doing) easier.

Where We Last Saw Riding Hood
- Sil




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While this tank was fun to make and to trim and grow, I began to realize some obvious mistakes I hadn't considered when I laid it out. None of these mistakes are completely obvious at first glance, but the challenge they create comes to the maintenance of the tank which I was asked -

Incredible! I love how it has grown in. You really can envision little red riding hood coming down the path, lol.
How much time do you spend on it? I am finding that switching to live plants means a lot of time to plant, arrange, prune, etc.

I started fixing mistakes 1 by 1, which I was close when I mentioned a full trim takes 2-3 hrs. 3 1/2 hours - timed it, but I was also fixing a few items, as well as planting. What I forgot to mention was the way I did things in the beginning has not only made cleaning a pain, but creates a mess I have to sort through each time.

Day 1:


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Background: Note the different heights and layers of Rotala in the back in the picture above. Some of you are probably going to think I'm crazy, but I actually cut that layered look in close to three months ago, then 2 months ago I cut the different heights. You won't be able to see it in virtually any picture but I'm using my imagination to draw a mental pattern at the base of the plants that follows the flow of the tops. The taller plants in the back are cut to about 2" and I trace the curve by cutting the plants from there down to about a 1/2 " - same as the front. 1 month later the plants are growing great again and I'll then cut the very front layer of Rotala into the front pattern. Then I just let it all grow up and out. Normally I'd just do maintenance trims for another couple months, but I wanted to fix some issues, so let me just wreck it.


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The background plants are hard to see from any angle because of other plants right now, and because their bases have been blocked from light they're raggedy and mostly leafless.


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Mistake #1: Unnecessary hardscape
This reveals my first mistake, which is Unnecessary hardscape. What happened is I was trying to add so much detail in the beginning there's literally hardscape that you never see until I hack portions of the tank down. This isn't even including "trees" I accidentally cut in half while trimming and smaller pieces I took out months ago. In detail perspective they help, but in a maintenance one all this has done is create difficult trimming obstacles which take me longer. There's trees and pieces of trees that once the background goes up you'd never care to know they were hidden. This is an easy fix I can take care of, but haven't right now.

[Unfixable now] Mistake #2: Anchoring Difficult hardscape

So long as I'm not trying to fit my hands and scissors around the background trees the hardscape which is just positioned in place with larger substrate at the base and eco-complete at the top doesn't move, but having to move around all those sticks means I hit them and then have to try and adjust them again.

I realized the most simple solution to this almost immediately when I noticed the problem! I could have made them unmovable by taking 1" styrofoam and placing it on the glass bottom, laying out the trees, and then fitting their bases through the styrofoam and using silicone to glue them in place - THEN poured the larger, lava rock layer, then my finale layer there'd be no adjustment later. That would have worked on %99 of all the trees. All except for the biggest tree, which has become unstable, but just a little. That one I used other pieces of would to support, which also make up the shape itself, as well as setting on two large rocks.


- I trimmed some of the moss on the upper trees - mostly with my straight scissors and spring scissors - then used a hose to siphon all the stray moss I could -25% water. I trim the background Rotola because even with the filter off the moss gets caught in all the plants. Wherever moss ends up, it grows.


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[End of Day 1 - continued in Day 2]




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Silister Trench

Day 2:

Note: At the end of each day of altercations I'm following it with a %25 water change to remove plants, detritus and reduce nutrients. During this all the lights remain the same (crypts will kick back if altered) and I stopped dosing nutrients. I'm doing it a day apart to stress the fish less, as well as allow the tank to settle before moving on. Since the tank has no lid the water level is 3" below the top every night to prevent the overstressed fish from darting at floating plant matter, or being spooked, and jumping out. This isn't a problem any other time, but with the shifting of areas the water conditions worsen and...

...These Black Skirts are my babies. All my other fish could up and die, and it would take me a week to notice, but these guys get the best.




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I put a lot of detail into the rocks, always imagining they'd be covered in moss. This isn't quite what I ever wanted... The rocks are all similar with rough faces, so moss attaches easily to it and collects in this spot in particular, creating an uphill battle of visible detritus and moss removal. The rocks are forever plague with detritus and look gross. I've known how I could fix this for a long time, but the work.

Mistake #3: Rock selection vs plant growth

I didn't want everything in the front to be covered. Even after trimming I still fight an unnecessary war of fish waste that collects. I wanted the bottom to be more interesting with visible portions of rocks and moss that stayed where I placed it. All of these rocks aren't large enough to finely trim that sort of detail, which is my bad. Again, this could be unnecessary hardscape (which you'll see soon) but really the rough surfaces on the rocks I chose is the problem, so how to fix rocks you want to remain visible and not mossed over?


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The solution (at least in my head) comes down to the size of the stones, the plants growth, as well as the texture of the stones I want to remain visible. I'm using smoother stones with detail for the ones I want to be seen that are 3 inches or so, while the ones I want to grow the moss again used very rough textured stones that are about 1 inch. In this sense I feel like I'm planting the moss in a set path I want it to take down the road instead of tying it to stones and trying to tame it by trimming it back all too often. I'm using my cheap wide pincet to arrange rocks, and only the planting pincet to place the Dwarf Baby Tears into the substrate at the base, and then fit moss in places I want it to start.

It doesn't look like I did much more than mess up that section of the tank, but I'm hoping time will prove otherwise.

I removed substrate and some of the previous stones, then added 5 stones to it. This is the portions I removed that you never knew were there.


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Shortly after first doing this tank I realized some vital information I'd been overlooking. Over complication of a hardscape is far worse in the long run than simplifying it visually during the first steps. When it comes to placement, if it's not seen in the end result then why is it there in the first place? has become one of my rules. Of course, if it's not seen and it serves a purpose such as placement for plants or a retaining wall for substrate, then the rule is negate.

I could have totally snapped some intricate photos once it was all grown it by adding hardscape at the very end for that photo, but by complicating it initially the tank was destined to always become overgrown in poor design.
 

badaza

Please pin this, it's a great introduction to aquascaping!
 

Brian Rodgers

Another nice write up Silister Trench . Incredible growth, as you note. I hope some day I can get some. For now this comes in handy as a building block tool. Thank you so much for sharing.
Brian
 

Silister Trench

Another nice write up Silister Trench . Incredible growth, as you note. I hope some day I can get some. For now this comes in handy as a building block tool. Thank you so much for sharing.
Brian

Hey thanks! I'm still adding as I go, just lack the time right now!
 

Brian Rodgers

It's outstanding how you find the time you do, to write these in-depth articles, for which I am ever grateful.
 

Silister Trench

It's outstanding how you find the time you do, to write these in-depth articles, for which I am ever grateful.

Winters in Minnesota last a long time, and there's not many exciting activities in the cold, so it's easy to spare time.

Geographically lucky, or unlucky, depending on your perception and a glass half-full/glass half-empty.
 

Jocelyn Adelman

Half full for me based on this post
 

Brian Rodgers

More than full I'd say. Thanks
 

Silister Trench

Preventative Maintenance w/ Weekly Maintenance

For some of us weekly maintenance takes ten, maybe twenty minutes. For others it quickly becomes hours or sometimes even a day long chore, which is greatly determined by number of tanks and the amount of cleaning required.

I remember people who walked in and saw some of the tanks I've done having two clear reactions less than a year ago. The first was the one that all us try-hards and wannabe aquascapers hope for, and that's the look of I label as "dumbfound wonder". It's the reaction that crosses a face when - for likely the next half hour - that person sees it and can't stop looking around the glass panels or commenting on the tank. A reaction that's most noticeable when the person whose just caught sight of the tank doesn't even own a tank of their own and you hear a voice in your head say, "Bingo! Not only hit the nail on the head, but buried the head in one stroke. Drop the mic - Sil's out!" Hopefully the voices in your head don't say my name, but you get the point. The second reaction... is less than desirable. Maybe if the glass wasn't covered in spot algae, or diatoms, or there weren't dried water droplets blocking the view you might be able to briefly catch a small level of that "dumbfound wonder" but through all the filth it's lost.

First off we need to understand Weekly Maintenance, or at least my understanding of it, so we can find solid ground and then talk about Preventative Maintenance in an Aquascape, and how we can keep them cleaner, more algae-free, for longer. While my written definition may not be the way you define your own weekly maintenance it's how I remember doing maintenance in the beginning versus how I do it now.

Weekly Maintenance: Primarily a water change is performed to reset levels and clean waste or uneaten food. Some test water perimeters before [and/or after] the water change is performed. Glass is cleaned of visible algae and tank is tidied. Sometime during this stocking should be counted [if possible], and exterior glass should be cleaned.

Some of us likely have different tasks during weekly maintenance, but for the most part I think that pretty much sums Weekly Maintenance up in a few short sentences. For well-established tanks, artificial, or well-balanced set-ups there's not always much more needed, but in Aquascapes - especially those we want to always dazzle our guests or ourselves and keep long-term - Weekly Maintenance is fixing/maintaining our tank after what issues that occurred during the week prior, and more on point it's a set aside time we allotted to find time and to address issues in past-tense. In the same way that we get our flu shot in the fall to prevent illness in our own future, Preventative Maintenance is correcting issues that have yet to happen.

Preventative Maintenance: Hardscape closer to the light or any prone to algae can be cleaned right in the tank with a tooth brush or other tool. Weekly quick brushings will help prevent algae even in balanced Aquascapes before it ever becomes visible, and is a good time to clean driftwood or stones from fish waste or uneaten food. All equipment inside the tank such as Co2 diffuser, tubing, filter intake/outflow is wiped or scrubbed with a brush to prevent algae and discoloration. This is also a good time to check for signs of reduced flow from the filter or any other means that help water circulation. During this time all interior panels should be scrubbed regardless of visible algae/cloudiness to prevent algae forming on the glass over the next week and siliconed joints should be scrubbed. Cleaning the siliconed joints of the tank with a tooth brush is especially important, and probably more so on cheaper tanks because bacteria/algae can get behind silicone in places and it becomes much harder to scrub after it has been allowed time to settle into the silicone - ever tried scrubbing mildew out of the silicone seal around your bathtub? Check Co2 system: tank levels, connections. Look to see if plants are doing well across the tank, and prune leaves that appear unhealthy.

That probably looks like a lot of extra steps to some of us, and the people who rarely have algae in their understocked tanks are going to scoff at some of the cleaning, but hear me out on this. A quick tooth brushing of hardscape that appears clean, of the silicone, and wiping down already visibly clean glass and equipment tanks less time than we'd think. Considerably less time if what we're doing is cleaning the small particles and micro bacteria off areas before algae has a chance to get one green/red-black/brown boot in the door. In fact, some of us are already doing this Preventative Maintenance without knowing it. Once you go through the motions a few times you begin to work out your own system and can quickly go through the motions. Maybe an extra 10 minutes this week, but what you're doing is preventing a larger clean time of an hour next week. Here's just my own system I've worked out.

Preventative:
  1. Check strength of canister filter flow (to judge whether time should be allotted next week to clean)
  2. Shut off filter and check Co2 tank levels, BPS and Co2 circulation in tank
  3. A quick scrubbing of driftwood closer to the surface and stones, or pieces more visible
  4. Scrub inflow/outflow pipes, Co2 line, Co2 ceramic diffuser w/ fine brush [or switch out with clean one] scrub suction cups [or switch with clean] and place any suction cubs or the diffuser in hydrogen peroxide to clean until next week.
  5. Scrub silicone joints
  6. Wipe all interior sides of tank
Weekly:

  1. [Optional water test] Begin water drain
  2. Clean water evaporation rI'm on interior
Preventative:

7. Unhealthy leaf or portions of plants trimmed to be removed with W/C

Weekly:

3. Observe plant growth/health
4. Count stocking and observe health/behavior [if possible]
5. Refill tank
6. Clean exterior of glass
7. Filter is turned back on


Now we can attempt to prevent our tanks from looking less polished in between maintenance, but a tank that's imbalanced has a near impossible hurdle to jump between maintenance. The #1 way to keep a tank looking more professional is and always will be finding that sweet spot in your regiment and not trying to alter the ecosystem too fast or soon. High-tech tanks blast light and ramping up Co2 and Nutrient intake will have less polished tanks by midweek, but that's almost solely the reason tanks should be already stocked mentally with a crew of pets who want to help us before we ever think of what school or what majestic centerpiece fish we've been eye-balling in the store for months now.

Stocking Tanks - What We Need vs What We Want Right Now

This is an approach I've known about and understood very well but haven't been able to practice until recently when I bought my 32.1 Landen Rimless Cuboid. Every aspect and every responsibility of any tank in our homes falls solely on our shoulders just so we're crystal clear. Adding a dozen shrimp or some other algae eaters to a tank expecting them to work for our spotless tank is nonsensical. We live in 2017 at the moment and slavery is illegal. I think our pets, even our beneficial ones, understand this slightly more than most owners. They're not going to work harder than they want to, can't be convinced to do something they don't want to do, won't clean in one spot long enough to make a visible difference just because it's covered in algae, and don't give a lick about which panel you like to peep on them through so they can make special altercations to their behavior and clean only that panel so this weird looking land-giant who sometimes brings them food and then stays too long after giving it to them can see. Now that we understand all the problems and all the good of our tank rests on our shoulders alone, and the pets we paid for and will continue to pay for don't care what we want and won't listen to us we can move on to the approach of Mentally Stocking for the future.

Before my new tank arrived I knew what it was going to look like set up and the available room I had to stock what I wanted right at that moment. I didn't think of the tank as having 32.1 Gallons of available room and immediately imagine 32.1 inches of tetra filling every available space. I knew my Aquascapes normally consume 1/3 [or more] available space. 32.1 / 3 = 10.7 x 2 = 21.4 available gallons of watering the tank after substrate, hardscape, decorations. Now we just have 21.4 inches of tetras... wrong! When Mentally Stocking i'm trying to look ahead to what's in the tanks future, and what I can stock to help take a small amount of the work load off my shoulders during the time between Preventative Maintenance+Weekly Maintenance when I'm not cleaning it. My favorite algae eaters will always be Ottocinclus Catfish because these guys put in some work, but one won't cut it and the internet tells me I need groups of 5 to make them "feel safe", but Ottos do not eat decaying plant matter, and uneaten food. They do a fantastic job of sucking biofilm from any object in the tank, but that was only half of the job that could be done, so by this point I've already imagined 1/3 my tank is useless to fish because of hardscape and now [still before ever setting hands on the tank] more space is disappearing to pets that are going to help me clean, but half a job wasn't enough and ottos aren't intricate like shrimp. I chose RCS shrimp because they're less sensitive and I have over a hundred of them.

What we needed in a 32.1 Gallon tank -

  • -10.7 Available gallons hardscape
  • -10.7 Available gallons "cleaning crew" in our preventative maintenance [overestimate]
  • 10.7 available stocking gallons dedicated to "what I want"
In my mind I used over 20 gallons before the tank was set up. I likely underestimated hardscape space usage in gallons, but over estimated stocking consumption and available space when it came to a team that was going to help me in my crusade of Preventative Maintenance. That was what we, my tank and I, needed to help it be healthier and better looking for longer.

I think a lot of people new to aquascaping and the hobby overlook the need to stock for your tanks future, and they immediately stock for a bare tank with pets that are working against the cleanliness of their set up. I know I've done that exact scenario more than a few times and sometimes even when I knew better. Algae crews for Preventative Maintenance shouldn't be an after thought to be dropped in after the problem has taken hold, but a necessity already taken into consideration. In this set up I used as an example they were the first ones in the tank, put to work before my slacker Black Skirt Tetras were added a few weeks later. They were preventing a problem before the problem, so that when I was able to use the 10.7 remaining space for what I wanted, there wasn't an issue to correct and the Black Skirts that I truly wanted in there had a exceptionally healthy and nice home.
 

Brian Rodgers

you're killin' me here Silister. I mean this is a good way.
 

Jack_Napier

When you say hardwood vs softwood, do you mean literally hard and soft or the classifications like deciduous vs coniferous?
 

Silister Trench

When you say hardwood vs softwood, do you mean literally hard and soft or the classifications like deciduous vs coniferous?

I think the majority of the time I'll refer to it in a literal sense of the wood being hard, or soft. At the time of writing about certain woods I probably didn't explain that, but the majority of woods I've found in the nature and used in a tank I may have a general idea of what type of wood (a hardwood being angiosperm trees / softwood being gymnosperm) based on surrounding forest area, but I'm far from good enough to pick out a piece that's been stripped of bark and often different in color, then determine whether it's deciduous or conifer. From my own experience with gathering woods I'm very literally taking each piece and seeing how hard it is to rip it apart with my hands. While definitely not scientific by any means, it helps sort through pieces of wood that are going to disintegrate easily inside the tank and submerged for long periods.
 

Jack_Napier

I think the majority of the time I'll refer to it in a literal sense of the wood being hard, or soft. At the time of writing about certain woods I probably didn't explain that, but the majority of woods I've found in the nature and used in a tank I may have a general idea of what type of wood (a hardwood being angiosperm trees / softwood being gymnosperm) based on surrounding forest area, but I'm far from good enough to pick out a piece that's been stripped of bark and often different in color, then determine whether it's deciduous or conifer. From my own experience with gathering woods I'm very literally taking each piece and seeing how hard it is to rip it apart with my hands. While definitely not scientific by any means, it helps sort through pieces of wood that are going to disintegrate easily inside the tank and submerged for long periods.
Sounds great! Only thing to look out for is some trees related to Ash produce a neurotoxin for fish. I'll check a book I have at home to find which it is.
 

Silister Trench

Sounds great! Only thing to look out for is some trees related to Ash produce a neurotoxin for fish. I'll check a book I have at home to find which it is.

Thanks! That is definitely a good bit of info to know for people!
 

Jack_Napier

Fishing with Poisons
I'm actually at work so I googled it, lol. I was wrong earlier it's not ash but the legume family. It's been a while since I read about it. Anyway this guy did a great job writing about it and it is definitely worth the read.
 

Jocelyn Adelman

Found it!
stella1979 Nigel95
 

Silister Trench

If Patience Is So Virtuous, Then Why Do Some Get An Aquascape Right The First Try?

Short Answer: Some people are gifted, some people are incredibly gifted, but for the rest of us there's countless failed attempts, set back after set back, and then by some miracle and many months of cringing against the sour and bitter taste of our lemon-aquascape somewhere [somehow] we managed to grab that lemon and hold on tight. We squeezed until we not only had lemonade, but when we opened our hand and looked- really looked- we realized that instead of the lemon our fingers closed on, the one we thought had been bled dry with white knuckles, we were holding nothing less than a diamond. A diamond no matter how small is a diamond nonetheless.

The Lengthier Answer: I doubt there's very many of us that actually found the path of the gifted, let alone the incredibly gifted. It's because the world of aquatic plants & fish keeping is so foreign to us that makes seeing a really good tank that much better, and it's that same foreign feeling that sends most of us down the longer, more rugged, path of trial and failure. Because good aquascaping is a combination of landscaping, advanced fish keeping, sometimes a scholary level of knowledge when it comes to plants cycles and needs (more importantly aquatic plants), and yes, a certain degree of science, it makes it hard to believe there's very many Aquascapers who threw a tank together, took a single step back before being immediately praised for the pure gold that became the tank he touched.

I think videos found on Youtube.com are probably more misleading. Off the top of my head I don't remember a single video where a proffessional like James Findley created an Aquascape and then determined it wasn't good enough a few short months later and then completely redid it like a lot of beginners do. No, it's because prior to the incredible Aquascapes they're capable of now they probably didn't believe their work was good enough to be shown off, which is why we don't see them fail like we witness during our own first attempts - usually riddled with failure. It makes us incapable of relating what they can do to our own imprisonment of limitations we made ourselves believe were in place on our own creativity. What if we can just find some common ground to help free our creativity? Here it is: everyone at any one point in their life, hobby, goals etc.. is capable of failure, and especially when using skills you've never needed to develop the chance of failure is much higher. What I'm trying to say is the art of Aquascaping makes us realize how underdeveloped our knowledge and experience is when it comes to successfully Aquascaping.

Everyone will at one point or another make an incredibly bad Aquascape. Most of us in our time in the hobby has made an incredibly bad decision and experienced failure. Patience is virtuous, but it's the conditioning we force into this hobby to get up, tooth-brush off the mess of algae you have completely covering your attempt and keep at it that makes the rugged path of trial and failure become easier to walk.

Patience & Virtues

If I was given a handful of randomly picked 6 lbs Seiryu Stone you bought on eBay, a few small pieces of driftwood that you either found or purchased, 5 different variety of plants that don't mesh well together and with different growth rates, then on top of all that random I was told I had an hour to design something magnificent in your 20G because the 5G bucket of already purchased fish and shrimps were waiting for their palace then I can promise you one thing for certain: any chances of an aquascape that might be incredible is %0, any chance of a good one is %15, and the likelihood that the mess I leave you with is very average - maybe even below average - is about %85.

This scenario I've described isn't necessarily one we place someone else in, but all-to-often it's a situation and restraint we immediately shackle our creativity with as soon as we put ourselves in this scenario. We do this when we rush to make the most magnificent Aquascape those around us have ever seen. The literal scenario I've described is one where I've removed the fish from an established tank, placed them in a bucket, and then immediately began destroying a tank with new hardscape I just bought or found, all the while knowing I needed to hurry to get the 20 or so fish who loved the tank before I destroyed it back into the tank. Any chance I had to make something really cool is such a low percentage that I'd easily say it's %0. When creativity is shackled with a time restraint it doesn't work twice as hard because the exact opposite is true in my experience. Creativity on a time restraint works less than half as hard, and usually slower the shorter the length of time given it.

There's a ton of new people to the hobby that want to keep plants, and often try creating an Aquascape, except... They almost never have everything to do it right the first time, so instead the restrained process will often be repeated two, three - maybe even half a dozen times because each attempt wasn't part of the natural process, but a process we forced because we lost patience and needed everything right now. What makes this forced and very restrained attempt even more daunting is the available tank they're attempting to Aquascape is fully stocked, and they don't have anywhere to put the stocking because every tank is fully stocked. The problem in their Aquascape attempt is the EXACT reason there's not a single gallon of available real-estate for one more fish in their tanks. It's because they forgot what everyone at one point or another finds out, and that is "patience is virtuous". Creativity needs time to detail its surroundings, its material, its setting, and while it's processing these (at least in my case) the creative-part isn't hurrying because it's chilling on the imagined couch and relaxing, just waiting for some detail or visual stimulation to give all his mixed ideas a bit of adhesion so they can become reality.

There's easy ways to overcome our lack of virtuous patience and these are just a few:

1.) Set up a sand box. This isn't a kids sand box, but one for you to play in. A cardboard box about the same size as the tank you're working on with most of 1 side removed except for a bottom ledge to hold sand is easy to manage and garbage after the fact. Fill it up with sand, and before you ever move a single grain in your tank use the sand box to find a design, creating a literal map to how you want the tank to look. When everything is just so dang right, the world makes sense, and you've done the best you could, walk away and forget about it. This first attempt I do fast, just trying to visualize my initial ideas with new pieces, and it usually takes 30min-1hr. Bam! Don't touch it - don't you even think about touching it... quit thinking about it... don't... Let the design free-float away from immediate thought, cooking it on a very low simmer for a day or two. Come back to the design, take pictures of it from multiple angels. The better the photo, the easier this will be. Now fine-tune whatever you think needs to be fixed. When it's done take more photos of similar angles as your first series, then walk away. You can repeat this as many times as you need, looking back over your corrections until you have either fixed it to perfection or made it horribly worse, in which case the photos will help you get back on track to your original designs. Take your time.

2.) You need a place for everything depending on how much work you do. A bit of advice I keep in the back of my mind is this: it takes longer to aquascape a tank full of plants, water, fish then it does a dry tank, so if I can foresee the rescape taking longer than it would if I removed everything then I push towards removing everything. You need a place for fish, containers for plants, for everything you aren't using. Even if you don't have another tank to rehouse fish, then find an empty rubbermaid, wash it out and use it as a temporary tank for live stock. Cheap, plastic food storage containers are great places to store plants, and with a bit of water you can keep them for a long time. This frees up any restraints concerning time. The fish will be fine, and you have a few days on the plants, so now work the tank at your own pace. Sometimes it takes me 1hr, while another instance it's taken me 12hrs. You have to work with time, and not against it.

3.) If doing a massive rescape I never recommend doing it with the tank full. There's obviously scenarios which this wouldn't apply to, like very large tanks, or tanks with very sensitive species. The reason is it's always - ALWAYS - easier to aquascape with no fish, no water, just substrate and hardscape. You then can work a design you came up with in the sand box, or start a new one.

4.) If you can, don't immediately plant and refill the tank once you've set hardscape the way you think it should go. Sometimes it's best to wait a day or two before coming back and reevaluate the scenario to make sure you're happy. If you still have doubts, take photos and use other people's opinions to help you determine what might be best.

5.) Only when you are happy with everything should you replant. By not allowing the factor of time restraints, you have a chance to rework the ideas now in a tank that's empty, which is much faster and much easier than when it's stocked and planted again.

6.) Once you've perfected and made your changes, then planted - could be a new or established tank - get lights/Co2 automated and prevent yourself from constantly looking at it, determined to find flaws because I'll promise you they're in there. Unless you absolutely must, try not to move any hardscape for a week or two. Try to not even pay attention to the tank, save for feedings and water changes. In fact, aside from that, it's better if you forget it exists because you want to give your brain a chance to forget all these flaws, then look at it again without bias. Only after a week or two has passed should you try and fix any flaws your fresh outlook has found.

This was an idea I did a week ago. When I first laid it out my brain constantly wanted to shuffle and move hardscape, so I followed my exact listed approach. I laid it out in less than 1hr, forgot about it for a week, then came back to find those same glaring mistakes and my brain was disappointed there aren't many I can see to fix.


216586613a0e4f600e3490537d279f04.jpg

I've played in the sand long enough I know my brain's habits. The longer I fiddle on a hardscape the more I'm prone to trying to position hardscape just-so, or until the point my constant revisions are actually worse than the creative portion of my brain [who climbed off the couch just long enough to drop some stones in place] had set when he glanced very briefly at the material and tank. This is what I tend to do, and maybe not what you find yourself doing. Maybe you're the type that needs a 4hr hardscape marathon because it gets better for you the longer you play in the sand, but I'm definitely not that way. Without even taking lots of time, or usually giving the idea as a whole much thought, my initial work is almost always more natural looking than a similar design I spent 4hrs on in a single sitting. By spreading all that time over days, even weeks, it gives my brain a chance to turn off the monitor on the idea, forgetting completely about the plot or direction the previous episode had been heading in, so when the monitor turns back on and I see a familiar formation it's almost like someone else had done it because I've made myself forget everything I knew wasn't cohesive to the focal points, or the layout as a whole.
 

Natalya

Why cannot I landscape a piece of land 3ftx20 in front of my house for the life of me I planted my favorite plants, but then it turns out that one plant grows way too big for the space alotted, another does not like my soil, the third one looks beautiful when in bloom, but at other times like a bunch of sticks, they all bloom at the same time etc etc. I have no experience with it, that is why. And landscaping company sends a bunch of non-descript people and half an hour later it is manicured - because they have few formulas, not because they send a talent every time
 

Silister Trench

Why cannot I landscape a piece of land 3ftx20 in front of my house for the life of me I planted my favorite plants, but then it turns out that one plant grows way too big for the space alotted, another does not like my soil, the third one looks beautiful when in bloom, but at other times like a bunch of sticks, they all bloom at the same time etc etc. I have no experience with it, that is why. And landscaping company sends a bunch of non-descript people and half an hour later it is manicured - because they have few formulas, not because they send a talent every time

I honestly don't remember growing a single plant in my life, aside from a tomato vine 1x time for a few months. Haha! But like you said, you don't have experience with it, and because that deficiency in understanding all the "formulas", or really if we break those formulas down to the most basic level, you just don't know what works and what doesn't. Beginners in planted tanks and Aquascaping do the same thing when googling pictures of professionally done tanks. It allows you to see what plants look like fully grown, how they look with other plants and layouts. So, while I have no idea about landscaping, you just need to figure out what works, what doesn't, and the needs of the plants you have vs what you want and all their requirements to make them look their best.
 

Culprit

Why cannot I landscape a piece of land 3ftx20 in front of my house for the life of me I planted my favorite plants, but then it turns out that one plant grows way too big for the space alotted, another does not like my soil, the third one looks beautiful when in bloom, but at other times like a bunch of sticks, they all bloom at the same time etc etc. I have no experience with it, that is why. And landscaping company sends a bunch of non-descript people and half an hour later it is manicured - because they have few formulas, not because they send a talent every time

But aquascaping is so much different then landscaping. People have been landscaping for ages and ages, but as Silister said, aquascaping is so different, so foreign that we often feel overwhelmed and it just intimidates you and holds you back from what you really can do. A lot of times we see those amazing, incredible aquascapes by takashI amano and james findley and we think we can never do that. But if you look at the description, you see the tank has been flooded for a year. but what it doesn't say is the fact that they spend weeks at least not months working on their hardscape!

As silister said time is one thing, but one thing most beginning aquascapers don't realize is the fact that you can't work wonders with 3 to 5 peices of stones and one peice of drfitwood that you have to use because you bought it and you're not letting it go to waste. Professional aquascapers have so much hardscape/plants available to them its not even funny. Instead of a few rocks they have hundreds. They have so many options.

I would really like to reitierate on Silisters point on time. When I first tried to aquascape, I went out gathered a few rocks, got everything in the mail like a filter/ect. I spent mabye 30 minutes setting up the aquascape in the tank. Sure, I had looked online at one of those perfect aquascapes and was like, hey, I can copy it exactly and have a amazing tank. So I got a few rocks and my substrate. But I put in the rocks, put in substrate, flooded it and planted it in less then an hour. As time went on, I realized it was an incredibly sub-average aquascape. So then I started a build thread, went to another forum for aquascaping, and built a mock tank. (The cardboard box in the same size as your tank with the front cut out) I gathered lots and lots of stones and built a hardscape. I then left it and came back a few days later, wtih some suggestions from other people. I then just started making incredibly minor changes, such as rotating a rock a few degrees, and then I would leave it for a day. When I finished I had in my mind a beautiful aquascape.
 

Silister Trench

But aquascaping is so much different then landscaping. People have been landscaping for ages and ages, but as Silister said, aquascaping is so different, so foreign that we often feel overwhelmed and it just intimidates you and holds you back from what you really can do. A lot of times we see those amazing, incredible aquascapes by takashI amano and james findley and we think we can never do that. But if you look at the description, you see the tank has been flooded for a year. but what it doesn't say is the fact that they spend weeks at least not months working on their hardscape!

As silister said time is one thing, but one thing most beginning aquascapers don't realize is the fact that you can't work wonders with 3 to 5 peices of stones and one peice of drfitwood that you have to use because you bought it and you're not letting it go to waste. Professional aquascapers have so much hardscape/plants available to them its not even funny. Instead of a few rocks they have hundreds. They have so many options.

I would really like to reitierate on Silisters point on time. When I first tried to aquascape, I went out gathered a few rocks, got everything in the mail like a filter/ect. I spent mabye 30 minutes setting up the aquascape in the tank. Sure, I had looked online at one of those perfect aquascapes and was like, hey, I can copy it exactly and have a amazing tank. So I got a few rocks and my substrate. But I put in the rocks, put in substrate, flooded it and planted it in less then an hour. As time went on, I realized it was an incredibly sub-average aquascape. So then I started a build thread, went to another forum for aquascaping, and built a mock tank. (The cardboard box in the same size as your tank with the front cut out) I gathered lots and lots of stones and built a hardscape. I then left it and came back a few days later, wtih some suggestions from other people. I then just started making incredibly minor changes, such as rotating a rock a few degrees, and then I would leave it for a day. When I finished I had in my mind a beautiful aquascape.

Hitting the nail on the head for the winz! You touched on exactly what I was getting at!
 

-Mak-

If Patience Is So Virtuous, Then Why Do Some Get An Aquascape Right The First Try?

Short Answer: Some people are gifted, some people are incredibly gifted, but for the rest of us there's countless failed attempts, set back after set back, and then by some miracle and many months of cringing against the sour and bitter taste of our lemon-aquascape somewhere [somehow] we managed to grab that lemon and hold on tight. We squeezed until we not only had lemonade, but when we opened our hand and looked- really looked- we realized that instead of the lemon our fingers closed on, the one we thought had been bled dry with white knuckles, we were holding nothing less than a diamond. A diamond no matter how small is a diamond nonetheless.

The Lengthier Answer: I doubt there's very many of us that actually found the path of the gifted, let alone the incredibly gifted. It's because the world of aquatic plants & fish keeping is so foreign to us that makes seeing a really good tank that much better, and it's that same foreign feeling that sends most of us down the longer, more rugged, path of trial and failure. Because good aquascaping is a combination of landscaping, advanced fish keeping, sometimes a scholary level of knowledge when it comes to plants cycles and needs (more importantly aquatic plants), and yes, a certain degree of science, it makes it hard to believe there's very many Aquascapers who threw a tank together, took a single step back before being immediately praised for the pure gold that became the tank he touched.

I think videos found on Youtube.com are probably more misleading. Off the top of my head I don't remember a single video where a proffessional like James Findley created an Aquascape and then determined it wasn't good enough a few short months later and then completely redid it like a lot of beginners do. No, it's because prior to the incredible Aquascapes they're capable of now they probably didn't believe their work was good enough to be shown off, which is why we don't see them fail like we witness during our own first attempts - usually riddled with failure. It makes us incapable of relating what they can do to our own imprisonment of limitations we made ourselves believe were in place on our own creativity. What if we can just find some common ground to help free our creativity? Here it is: everyone at any one point in their life, hobby, goals etc.. is capable of failure, and especially when using skills you've never needed to develop the chance of failure is much higher. What I'm trying to say is the art of Aquascaping makes us realize how underdeveloped our knowledge and experience is when it comes to successfully Aquascaping.

Everyone will at one point or another make an incredibly bad Aquascape. Most of us in our time in the hobby has made an incredibly bad decision and experienced failure. Patience is virtuous, but it's the conditioning we force into this hobby to get up, tooth-brush off the mess of algae you have completely covering your attempt and keep at it that makes the rugged path of trial and failure become easier to walk.

Patience & Virtues

If I was given a handful of randomly picked 6 lbs Seiryu Stone you bought on eBay, a few small pieces of driftwood that you either found or purchased, 5 different variety of plants that don't mesh well together and with different growth rates, then on top of all that random I was told I had an hour to design something magnificent in your 20G because the 5G bucket of already purchased fish and shrimps were waiting for their palace then I can promise you one thing for certain: any chances of an aquascape that might be incredible is %0, any chance of a good one is %15, and the likelihood that the mess I leave you with is very average - maybe even below average - is about %85.

This scenario I've described isn't necessarily one we place someone else in, but all-to-often it's a situation and restraint we immediately shackle our creativity with as soon as we put ourselves in this scenario. We do this when we rush to make the most magnificent Aquascape those around us have ever seen. The literal scenario I've described is one where I've removed the fish from an established tank, placed them in a bucket, and then immediately began destroying a tank with new hardscape I just bought or found, all the while knowing I needed to hurry to get the 20 or so fish who loved the tank before I destroyed it back into the tank. Any chance I had to make something really cool is such a low percentage that I'd easily say it's %0. When creativity is shackled with a time restraint it doesn't work twice as hard because the exact opposite is true in my experience. Creativity on a time restraint works less than half as hard, and usually slower the shorter the length of time given it.

There's a ton of new people to the hobby that want to keep plants, and often try creating an Aquascape, except... They almost never have everything to do it right the first time, so instead the restrained process will often be repeated two, three - maybe even half a dozen times because each attempt wasn't part of the natural process, but a process we forced because we lost patience and needed everything right now. What makes this forced and very restrained attempt even more daunting is the available tank they're attempting to Aquascape is fully stocked, and they don't have anywhere to put the stocking because every tank is fully stocked. The problem in their Aquascape attempt is the EXACT reason there's not a single gallon of available real-estate for one more fish in their tanks. It's because they forgot what everyone at one point or another finds out, and that is "patience is virtuous". Creativity needs time to detail its surroundings, its material, its setting, and while it's processing these (at least in my case) the creative-part isn't hurrying because it's chilling on the imagined couch and relaxing, just waiting for some detail or visual stimulation to give all his mixed ideas a bit of adhesion so they can become reality.

There's easy ways to overcome our lack of virtuous patience and these are just a few:

1.) Set up a sand box. This isn't a kids sand box, but one for you to play in. A cardboard box about the same size as the tank you're working on with most of 1 side removed except for a bottom ledge to hold sand is easy to manage and garbage after the fact. Fill it up with sand, and before you ever move a single grain in your tank use the sand box to find a design, creating a literal map to how you want the tank to look. When everything is just so dang right, the world makes sense, and you've done the best you could, walk away and forget about it. This first attempt I do fast, just trying to visualize my initial ideas with new pieces, and it usually takes 30min-1hr. Bam! Don't touch it - don't you even think about touching it... quit thinking about it... don't... Let the design free-float away from immediate thought, cooking it on a very low simmer for a day or two. Come back to the design, take pictures of it from multiple angels. The better the photo, the easier this will be. Now fine-tune whatever you think needs to be fixed. When it's done take more photos of similar angles as your first series, then walk away. You can repeat this as many times as you need, looking back over your corrections until you have either fixed it to perfection or made it horribly worse, in which case the photos will help you get back on track to your original designs. Take your time.

2.) You need a place for everything depending on how much work you do. A bit of advice I keep in the back of my mind is this: it takes longer to aquascape a tank full of plants, water, fish then it does a dry tank, so if I can foresee the rescape taking longer than it would if I removed everything then I push towards removing everything. You need a place for fish, containers for plants, for everything you aren't using. Even if you don't have another tank to rehouse fish, then find an empty rubbermaid, wash it out and use it as a temporary tank for live stock. Cheap, plastic food storage containers are great places to store plants, and with a bit of water you can keep them for a long time. This frees up any restraints concerning time. The fish will be fine, and you have a few days on the plants, so now work the tank at your own pace. Sometimes it takes me 1hr, while another instance it's taken me 12hrs. You have to work with time, and not against it.

3.) If doing a massive rescape I never recommend doing it with the tank full. There's obviously scenarios which this wouldn't apply to, like very large tanks, or tanks with very sensitive species. The reason is it's always - ALWAYS - easier to aquascape with no fish, no water, just substrate and hardscape. You then can work a design you came up with in the sand box, or start a new one.

4.) If you can, don't immediately plant and refill the tank once you've set hardscape the way you think it should go. Sometimes it's best to wait a day or two before coming back and reevaluate the scenario to make sure you're happy. If you still have doubts, take photos and use other people's opinions to help you determine what might be best.

5.) Only when you are happy with everything should you replant. By not allowing the factor of time restraints, you have a chance to rework the ideas now in a tank that's empty, which is much faster and much easier than when it's stocked and planted again.

6.) Once you've perfected and made your changes, then planted - could be a new or established tank - get lights/Co2 automated and prevent yourself from constantly looking at it, determined to find flaws because I'll promise you they're in there. Unless you absolutely must, try not to move any hardscape for a week or two. Try to not even pay attention to the tank, save for feedings and water changes. In fact, aside from that, it's better if you forget it exists because you want to give your brain a chance to forget all these flaws, then look at it again without bias. Only after a week or two has passed should you try and fix any flaws your fresh outlook has found.

This was an idea I did a week ago. When I first laid it out my brain constantly wanted to shuffle and move hardscape, so I followed my exact listed approach. I laid it out in less than 1hr, forgot about it for a week, then came back to find those same glaring mistakes and my brain was disappointed there aren't many I can see to fix.


216586613a0e4f600e3490537d279f04.jpg

I've played in the sand long enough I know my brain's habits. The longer I fiddle on a hardscape the more I'm prone to trying to position hardscape just-so, or until the point my constant revisions are actually worse than the creative portion of my brain [who climbed off the couch just long enough to drop some stones in place] had set when he glanced very briefly at the material and tank. This is what I tend to do, and maybe not what you find yourself doing. Maybe you're the type that needs a 4hr hardscape marathon because it gets better for you the longer you play in the sand, but I'm definitely not that way. Without even taking lots of time, or usually giving the idea as a whole much thought, my initial work is almost always more natural looking than a similar design I spent 4hrs on in a single sitting. By spreading all that time over days, even weeks, it gives my brain a chance to turn off the monitor on the idea, forgetting completely about the plot or direction the previous episode had been heading in, so when the monitor turns back on and I see a familiar formation it's almost like someone else had done it because I've made myself forget everything I knew wasn't cohesive to the focal points, or the layout as a whole.
This is precisely everything I've learned over the small amount of time I've been in the aquascaping/fish hobby, I couldn't agree more
 

Culprit

Hey Sil, would you recommend building a canister filter? Get a pump for $10 to $20 d0llars, get a container with a lid, drill a input hole at the bottom and an output hole at the top, silicone the pump into the top and run the hose out. Would it work as well as a regular canister filter? What GPH would you recommend?

Also, slightly off topic since its saltwater instead of freshwater but I'm planning on getting a 20 gallon reef tank setup. Could I derI'm it? Or just be safe and keep the rim? What if I euro braced it? I can get glass cheap here.
 

Jocelyn Adelman

Culprit if it's for the 20 long, I think the time, parts, and supplies needed to build the canister you might just be better off buying one of the smaller ones.... I have a sunsun on a 20 long, bought for $23 (eBay, possibly less though) added a nano pump for additional circulation ($7 Amazon).
$30 or under (feel like the canister was less then 23) I have a reliable system....
A large tank it's a whole other story though....
 

Culprit

Jocelyn Adelman Oh wow. I didn't know they were so cheap. I thought a good canister filter for a 20 long was like $100+. How many gph do I need for good water flow?
 

Nigel95

This Sil will help a lot of people. Great work!
 

Culprit

Jocelyn Adelman will this work? I may just get the canister filter and if I need more flow then I'll get a nano powerhead. But I don't want to blast my fish.
 

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